The political ecology of mangrove forest restoration in Thailand: Institutional arrangements and power dynamics

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20 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Mangrove forest restoration is practiced across the (sub)tropics to suppress ongoing deforestation and degradation of coastal ecosystem services and biodiversity. This article critically assesses mangrove restoration policies and initiatives in Thailand, using a political ecology lens focussed on institutional arrangements and power dynamics. Analysis based on interviews with 44 respondents shows how formal and informal institutions created by weak actor relations can inhibit long-term success. Revealed are inconsistencies between national mangrove restoration policies and the financial capacity of the government agency tasked with policy implementation. This can create a reliance on private-sector funding via corporate social responsibility (CSR), which centres decision-making power with firms regarding how, where, and when mangrove rehabilitation is implemented. Loosely-defined national targets lead stakeholders to report ‘false successes’ based on the spatial area planted, rather than on the long-term survival rate of afforested or reforested mangroves. This creates a ‘cycle of failure’ with little institutional learning (i.e., feedbacks on the ecological reasons for failure), and duplicated rehabilitation efforts. The strong institution of corporate philanthropy in Thailand makes subsequent CSR money readily available, while coinciding restoration events with public holidays associated with the Thai Royal Family motivates local participants to try again. Contemporary narratives from two progressive mangrove rehabilitation projects – with long-term collaboration, cooperation, and monitoring – help identify recommendations for overcoming these long-standing institutional challenges. The article demonstrates how weak and unequal actor relations – resulting from capacity limitations, power asymmetries, and cultural ideologies – creates gaps between policy design and implementation, thus leading to ineffective environmental governance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)503-514
Number of pages12
JournalLand Use Policy
Volume78
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Keywords

  • Co-management
  • Conservation
  • Ecological restoration
  • Environmental management
  • Environmental policy
  • Neoliberalism
  • Public-private partnerships
  • Wetland

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